Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins
I must be getting sentimental in my old age. Today, is Elvis Presley's birthday. He would be 75 years old. How old does that make you feel. He was influential in my youth without a doubt. But I am more mindful now than then of Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins. He was born two days after Elvis. He is still with us, bless his soul.
Ronnie Hawkins, the Hawk, was born a son of Arkansas, and as a young Rockabilly singer found his way to Canada with his band, "Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks,I am surprised a country boy from Arkansas even knew where Canada was, or if he did he thought of it as a land of ice and snow. It was Conway Twitty who told him he should come to Canada. He came and fell in love with Canada and stayed. He first performed in Hamilton, Ontario and then moved to Toronto, where he made his home. In my youth, he was a regular performer around Toronto and a fixture at the club, Le Coq d'Or.
The Hawk has become an musical icon in Canada and much loved and admired by his fans here. He has contributed to Canadian culture not only by his performances but but the number of many young Canadian musicians he has seen pass through his bands over the years. When all the original Hawks returned to Arkansas, except for Levon Helm, he hired Canadian muscians and helped them develop into great rock and roll muscians . The most famous group that moved on from Ronnie Hawkins was the group know simply as "The Band" lead by Robbie Robertson. But other musicians moved on singly and in groups to join other bands. One group in particular became the band for Janis Joplin, (bless her tormented soul) one of my favourites.
Ronnie Hawkin as he appears today
Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks as they were when they came to Canada, in my youth.
When Elvis Presley went into the army, Ronnie Hawkins was approached to return to the United States to step into the music vacuum left. He refused. Canada was his home.
I heard his interviews not long ago on the TV. He only has to utter a few words and you know he is an old country boy from Arkansas, still. Except the country he prefers these days is his home up in cottage country on Rice Lake, Ontario. He has had a colourful career in the best of rock and roll tradition of sex, drugs and rock and roll (probably as much hype as reality) for he is a serious and disciplined musician resepected by Canadian musicians who have flourished since he came to in Canada at the beginning of a blossoming of Canadian culture. http://www.ronniehawkins.com/bio_ronniehawkins.cfm
One of his admirers is former President Bill Clinton, the musician, that other son of Arkansas, who has also succeeded in life while occasionally being a bad boy. Hawkins played at Clinton's Inauguration. And when Ronnie Hawkins was supposed to be dying, Bill Clinton came and performed at a Concert to honour him. Being too tough to die, Rompin' Ronnie Hawkin, miraculously recovered from his pancreatic cancer and is still with us. His birthday is January 10. It is so nice to have him still among us to occasionally charm us with appearances on TV and remind us we were young once.
Here he is singing Mary Lou, one of his signature songs. He can still get your toe tapping, hands clapping and heart pounding.
Here is Ronnie Hawkins in an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos talking about his recover from a teminal cancer. It is funny as he displays all his rought charm.